At the Marius-Morin school in Gagny, Anaïs Galais has developed a project around letters to capture the attention of her CM2 students. On the program: poetry workshops, storytelling walks in nature or “escape game” in the playground.
“Can we try out your instrument?” Gathered around a grove of hawthorns, in the heart of the sparse undergrowth of the Sausset park, in Aulnay-sous-Bois (Seine-Saint-Denis), this Monday, March 20, Maya and her comrades listen attentively to Laurent Azuelos . At the turn of a walk in nature, the botanist connects tales and fables, kalimba – a percussion instrument from sub-Saharan Africa – by hand, under the amazed gaze of the children who accompany it in rhythm, clapping their hands.
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Today’s outing is part of an annual literature project that the teacher, Anaïs Galais, has decided to set up for her class at the Marius-Morin school in Gagny (Seine-Saint-Denis) . In a context where the loss of concentration and the drop in level of the students are regularly singled out, the young 29-year-old teacher has chosen to multiply the media to arouse their curiosity and capture their attention. “I always try to seek to innovate, and continue to innovate as much as possible”, she says. After starting at the beginning of the year with novels and comics, the teacher says that she organized poetry workshops in February. From now on, place to the tales.
The students “are very involved”
A few trees further on, on the occasion of a new story, Luca, one of the students in the class, plays the role of the hero. With the help of the storyteller, who discreetly whispers the words in his ear, he faithfully recites his text. “We used to say: who wants to discover a hidden treasure, will search with the forked branch of the hazel tree”, he recites in front of his comrades. During his journey through the forest, the woodsman he plays encounters a varied bestiary: lizard, mosquito, snake, owl… All the protagonists are played by the students.
Initially, Laurent Azuelos had not necessarily planned for the students to interpret the characters of the different stories, but he was surprised by their curiosity and their participation. “They are very involved, it came quite naturally”, enthuses the botanist-storyteller in the face of the children’s dynamism. The two accompanying mothers share the same observation. “Getting them out of their class routine is good for them and it shows”rejoices Sophie, the mother of Louna. “Here they don’t just listen, they can also participate, it’s great”abounds Murielle, Luca’s mother.
The awakening of curiosity…
For her part, Maya marvels: “I love storytelling. The beginnings are weird, but the endings are always beautiful”, she slips, in line behind the rest of her comrades, lined up two by two to follow the speaker. The 11-year-old girl explains being “satisfied” to be in nature. “It reminds me of my grandmother’s vegetable garden, I want to learn more”, she adds. Like Maya, the other students in the group do not hesitate to participate and raise their hands to each question asked by the speaker about the trees encountered on the way.
With such outings, Anaïs Galais wishes to give students the opportunity “to see what they would not have had the chance to discover” outside the school context. “It is the role of the school”affirms the teacher in a convinced tone, before adding: “Some of them come from working-class neighborhoods, they don’t necessarily have the opportunity to see all that.”
… through literature
The young teacher undertook this year to develop a whole project around literary genres. The objective: to offer fun exercises, while respecting the school curriculum. “The idea is to dedicate one genre per period and to approach them in a transversal way”, explains the teacher. Behind this initiative, the will of “enhancing certain skills by offering new things”in the face of a declining level in recent years.
“I try to innovate to make the course more lively, more catchy, and to prevent students from being immersed in their notebooks every day.”Anaïs Galais, teacher at the Marius-Morin school in Gagny (Seine-Saint-Denis)
Since the beginning of the year, the students have thus been able to exploit the novel by working on the exercise of the summary, or even “floor on their own comic”, explains Anaïs Galais. In February, they also tried their hand at poetry, creating their own verses thanks to the intervention of contemporary poet Rim Battal. “Louna was so delighted that she continued to work at home, writing a whole notebook of poems”remembers his mother, Sophie.
An “escape game” around fables to learn to work together
The day after their outing in the forest, the students headed back to the classroom. But they were not at the end of their surprises. Still in line with the tales, their mistress had this time concocted a escape room (a life-size adventure game). “A cultural catastrophe occurred during the night, at the city’s media library… (…) Heroes of famous tales decided to leave the pages of books to flee from this world…”, they learn in a letter signed by a mysterious anonymous, and whose content is projected on the board by Anaïs Galais. Their mission, if they accept it: save the characters of their favorite fables.
Divided into four groups, the pupils go in search of envelopes, hidden everywhere in the playground. These contain riddles, which, when solved, will allow them to piece together the final puzzle. Identify the adjectives on page 21 of the Little Red Riding Hoodconjugate imperfect verbs – story time –, or find the moral of a given text… The tasks are multiple and quickly lead to the students’ agitation. Because with each challenge solved, the groups must join the center of the courtyard to check their answer with the teacher.
“Mistress, are we the first to find it?”, asks Kahina, after her team has received a first good response. With the excitement of the game, a climate of competition quickly sets in between the different groups. “The students did not necessarily understand that theescape room was cooperative, and that the groups were not in competition”smiles Anaïs Galais. Once the activity is over, the teacher takes stock with her students and takes the opportunity to recall the objective of the exercise. “We discussed the small tensions that there may have been and proposed solutions so that cooperation goes better next time”she explains.
An investment that requires “extra work”
In the end, theescape roomwhich Anaïs Galais says she developed over the course of a weekend, allowed the teacher “to mix as many disciplines as possible”by mixing French and grammar, but also mathematics, or moral and civic education through cooperation and mutual aid messages highlighted during the exercise. “EPS tooadds the teacher. They spent a lot of time looking for the envelopes”.
Parents of students welcome this kind of initiative. “Madame Galais always has good ideas”, says Sophie. However, the teacher reminds us: the organization of projects like these always requires “extra work” from the teacher. For the outing the day before at Sausset Park, we had to ask for a coach to be made available by the town hall. “A few weeks before the date, I still had no certaintysays the teacher. The director even told me that it would be better to plan a two-class outing, which is very difficult to set up.”
“I understand that administrative and organizational difficulties sometimes demotivate some colleagues.”Anaïs Galais, teacher at the Marius-Morin school in Gagny (Seine-Saint-Denis)
The teacher shows modesty. “All of this can of course be improved”, she admits. What impact will her project have on her students’ grades? It’s still too early to tell. In the meantime, the children are already expressing their gratitude. During the storage of the material, at the end of the activity, a sheet circulated in the class, without the knowledge of Anaïs Galais. The teacher was able to read the comments of all the students in the class. Two words often came up: “Thank you mistress!”